Extracellular DNA acidifies biofilms and induces aminoglycoside resistance in Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Mike Wilton, Laetitia Charron-Mazenod, Richard Moore, Shawn Lewenza

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

165 Citations (Scopus)


Biofilms consist of surface-adhered bacterial communities encased in an extracellular matrix composed of DNA, exopolysaccharides, and proteins. Extracellular DNA (eDNA) has a structural role in the formation of biofilms, can bind and shield biofilms from aminoglycosides, and induces antimicrobial peptide resistance mechanisms. Here, we provide evidence that eDNA is responsible for the acidification of Pseudomonas aeruginosa planktonic cultures and biofilms. Further, we show that acidic pH and acidification via eDNA constitute a signal that is perceived by P. aeruginosa to induce the expression of genes regulated by the PhoPQ and PmrAB two-component regulatory systems. Planktonic P. aeruginosa cultured in exogenous 0.2% DNA or under acidic conditions demonstrates a 2- to 8-fold increase in aminoglycoside resistance. This resistance phenotype requires the aminoarabinose modification of lipid A and the production of spermidine on the bacterial outer membrane, which likely reduce the entry of aminoglycosides. Interestingly, the additions of the basic amino acid L-arginine and sodium bicarbonate neutralize the pH and restore P. aeruginosa susceptibility to aminoglycosides, even in the presence of eDNA. These data illustrate that the accumulation of eDNA in biofilms and infection sites can acidify the local environment and that acidic pH promotes the P. aeruginosa antibiotic resistance phenotype.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)544-553
Number of pages10
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan. 2016


Dive into the research topics of 'Extracellular DNA acidifies biofilms and induces aminoglycoside resistance in Pseudomonas aeruginosa'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this